GoAhead CEO calls for action to put bus at centre of post-COVID green planning

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In a piece in the Times Red Box, David Brown, Go-Ahead Group CEO, called on the Government to launch a three-point plan to put the bus at the centre of planning for a green, post-COVID Britain. In the piece, he praised the efforts of colleagues across the country for their efforts to keep essential workers moving, but reminded readers that the bus industry is at a crossroads. “Public messaging to avoid public transport has meant confidence in using buses has fallen despite the vital role our services play,” he said. “We kept services at 50 per cent, with welcome government support, during the height of the pandemic, but typically only one in ten passengers travelled. So we know the challenge we face to encourage people back on to the bus. That’s why we have increased the deep cleaning of our vehicles, given clear advice on hygiene and encouraged customers to pay by app or contactless. We’re supporting the government’s requirement for everyone to use a face mask on public transport.

“But I firmly believe the battle to restore faith in public transport should be one for the country as a whole. Coronavirus is triggering generational change across industries, but the bus remains something that you would introduce if it didn’t already exist.”

David went on to remind readers that none of the environmental benefits of using the bus have changed. “After a period where families reclaimed roads as their own, increasing cycling, walking, even skateboarding, do we really want to return to a world of traffic jams?” he asked.

Figures show that car usage has reached around 70% of pre-lockdown level, with claims that reduction in capacity on public transport will lead to a significant increase in the numbers of cars on the roads. David re-iterated the need for social distancing to be reduced to less than two metres,, to allow at least half the seats on a bus to be used, making it a less commercially-unviable proposition, but warned that more than that, a three-point plan backed by every level of government is needed, and soon, to keep the industry going.

He continued by urging the government to move away from the message to avoid public transport, and emphasise how using the bus supports the campaign to restart the economy, as well as to press ahead with a national bus strategy as a foundation for a revolution in public transport and which promotes the benefits of bus journeys.

David concluded: “Lastly, some of the £3 billion promised for the bus industry earlier this year by the government should be used to speed up the deployment of hydrogen and electric buses as part of an integrated government plan.

“If we don’t act, we risk coming out of coronavirus and heading straight in to another health crisis of our own making. Let’s give our towns and cities a chance to breathe. And back the bus.”